By Luke Andrews
President of the Royal Geographical Society, avid writer, and presenter of many TV shows, including BBC Two:Coast, Nick shared his top tips for going from journalist to President of a major geographical organisation with Durham students. Hard work, following your passion, and a keen interest in the world around you were all mentioned.
“Work hard, follow your passion, and use your eyes every time you walk out the house,” he says.
For ambitious Durham students looking for a career in Geography, maybe even to become President of the Royal Geographical Society, he was clear that there are more routes than becoming an academic.
He began the lecture on Tuesday, organised by Durham University Geographical Society, by saying;
“I am not an academic”
He became President, in a large part, owing to his previous journalistic career.
It was his passion for the subject and interest to keep ‘telling the story’ that got him to where he is today. Being passionate about what you do is essential, he says.
By way of showing this, he began to discuss the Geography of the room.
“Geography is everywhere,”
“Like this lecture hall. 12,000 years ago it would have been tundra with reindeer running through.”
It was told in such a way that it immediately captured both the attention and the imagination.
He also highlighted the diverse routes that geography can take you down.
Another famous Geographer that we all know and love (or maybe hate) is Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Nick’s geographical career began back at his high school, where he was inspired by his geography teacher to do a degree in the subject. He feels forever indebted to his education.
He studied at Wymondham College, and left with an 2.1 in Geography. He then took the decision to become a journalist, rather than an academic.
“There’s a part of me that wants to be one [an academic] though,” he said.
“I try to make up for it in an amateurish way.”
Using his skill for storytelling he became a successful journalist, always on the lookout for new and exciting ways to turn important geographical facts into a story that would capture the public eye.
“I have a way of looking at the world and seeing stories that I want to tell,” he said.
In his new book, ‘The Making of the British Landscape’, he mentions that only 2% of the U.K. Is built-on, whilst 98% remains open habitat. However, this is often very degraded land, and the figure includes places such as green spaces in the middle of roundabouts.
Through its publication, he hopes to build a new, shared narrative for the United Kingdom;
“I wanted to create a new story, a new narrative for this island we know as Britain.”
Becoming President of the RGS is an elected role. Upon request, he put his name forward for the 3 year position, and won.
Nowadays, he described his life as a juggling act between work, the journalism, and presidential duties. These include introducing speakers at RGS events, as well as being a speaker himself.
He promotes the Society’s agenda of pushing for more geography to be taught in schools, building links with geography departments nationally and internationally, and encouraging MORE students to study geography.
All this was achieved, he believed, by following his passion to achieve his dreams. He advises Durham students to do the same.
“I love it all. I’m very lucky,” he said.
Photograph: Jiahe Max Luan